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Natural Awakenings Naples and Fort Myers

Who’s a Natural Awakenings reader?: Meet Carlene Thissen

Apr 30, 2014 09:14AM

Life’s mission: To be remembered as someone who was a positive influence in the lives of others, cared about people, made them smile and loved to sing.

Work: Coordinator, Farm Labor Contractor Training Program, University of Florida Research and Education Center, Immokalee.

Proudest Achievements: I had a successful business career in supermarket technology, started an international conference, wrote many of the manuals used by the food industry about technology and co-wrote Target 2000, the Rising Tide of TechnoMarketing. In my current work, we teach the supervisors of farm workers the laws and practices that keep their workers safe, accurately paid and in an environment free from discrimination and harassment.

I volunteered for eight years and sang to the children at the Guadalupe Family Center. I still sing with the choir at Our Lady of Guadalupe church. I wrote two books: Immokalee’s Fields of Hope and Called From Silence: the Father Sanders Story. I’ve also written approximately 40 songs, which were largely inspired by Immokalee.

Expectations for the Future: I plan to update Immokalee’s Fields of Hope, which was published 10 years ago. I am now preparing to write a book about 10 Haitian “kids” (presently half of them are grown) that I’ve spent a lot of time with over the past 15 years. They all lived in a run-down, small two-story apartment building in Immokalee, but are from four different families. Each of them will have their own chapter and together, we will write about the parts of their lives I’ve been lucky enough to share. I’m also recording a CD with 14 new songs, also inspired by Immokalee.

Because there is no greater joy for me than singing on stage, especially with other talented musicians, I am working to become a successful professional performer.

Favorite Books: The best book I have ever read is 100 Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Other favorites are Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell; the Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling; Interview with the Vampire, by Anne Rice; Raptor and Aztec, by Gary Jennings; and Belize Survivor: The Darker Side of Paradise, by Nancy Koerner.

Favorite websites: MyFitnessPal.com.

Local causes supported: Redlands Christian Migrant Association and Catholic Charities. I also do a lot of one-on-one work on my own.

Favorite things about Natural Awakenings: Beautiful covers, news briefs, nature stories and information on natural health options.

Most frequented healthy food restaurant: Inca’s Kitchen, in Golden Gate.

How do you invest in your community? I tell people’s stories through books and music, and I teach and give talks about Immokalee to various groups.

Favorite quote: “I have always known I would take this road. I just did not know that day would be today.” Kenneth Reyroth

What are you doing to be the change you want to see in the world? I sing, tell stories and do my best to be compassionate, understanding and loving.

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